Americans with disabilities are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Signed into law in 1990, the ADA is a civil rights legislation that allows disabled persons to enjoy the same products and services as people without disabilities.
Businesses must meet ADA compliance to avoid breaking the law.
Fines and penalties are imposed on small businesses that fail to remain compliant. Businesses must take the appropriate steps to accommodate disabled patrons.
Businesses must meet the needs of their patrons, and there are a few methods to fast-track your business to ADA compliance.
1. Focus on Accessibility
Businesses have a legal right to focus on accessibility, and this is in the retail and restaurant space especially. If barriers are in the way, this means removing the barriers to help customers of all abilities have full accessibility to the space.
This goes beyond basic wheelchair accessibility.
But there are also some protections for businesses. Barriers may be able to remain in place if:
- Removal will come at an excessive cost to the business
Lawmakers know and understand that there are high costs to remodel an interior space or structural issues that may prevent the remodel from being completed promptly. In these cases, a business may want to work on saving for the remodel or necessary barrier removals to avoid future problems.
Small businesses must try their best to remove barriers for:
- Parking spaces that are too small for people in wheelchairs to access
- Steps going into a building that prevent people from visiting a location
- Accessible door knobs
- Accessible doors
- Proper maneuvering space for wheelchairs (3′ x 3′ for corners)
- Accessible sales and service counters
- Permanent table and seating fixtures
First and foremost, work on meeting the interior accessibility requirements set out by the ADA. You can see a guideline and example listing of barriers that ought to be removed to make your business ADA compliant.
2. Restroom Accessibility
There’s nothing more frustrating for a patron than not to be able to use a restroom. A fast way to ensure a patron never comes back to your location is to make it too difficult to use the restroom.
Restrooms need to be accessible for:
- Blind patrons
- Wheelchair bound patrons
- Patrons who have other mobility issues
You’ll want to make sure that every patron has the following:
- Space to maneuver around a toilet
- Space to maneuver around a sink
- Safety bars to help prevent falls
Braille should be on the bathroom door signage, too. Faucets must be able to reached as well as soap dispensers and hand drying materials or mechanisms.
There are planning guides that can help you devise your bathroom so that it meets all of the requirements set forth by the ADA. If you fail to meet requirements, you risk losing customers and being fined.
Of course, there are some exceptions to the rule if significant expenses will be incurred due to the modifications and remodeling required to meet the requirements.
3. Hire ADA Compliance Consultants
Maintaining ADA compliance is a legal requirement, and there are specialists who will come out to your facility to make the appropriate recommendations on what you can do to make your facility fully ADA compliant.
Every consultant is different, but they will:
- Inspect the property
- Make recommendations on what to change
- Identify all ADA violations
- Issue reports on all the issues at a facility
Many consultants will provide a list of changes with the lowest costs that can be made to help protect against any ADA violations.
You’ll find that these detailed reports can be very valuable in the event that your business is subject to ADA lawsuits.
The inspection and documentation will go a long way in proving that your business is working towards becoming ADA compliant. You’ll also have documentation of the changes you’ve made to help strengthen your defense in the event of a lawsuit.
Patrons that make recommendations are a great source of information, too. A good rule of thumb is that if a disabled patron makes a request or complaint, it’s best to correct the issue as soon as possible.
There’s a lot more to ADA compliance than just looking at a facility. There are laws against discriminating against employees with disabilities, too. You’ll need to make sure that your business learns all about ADA laws and follows through with the required changes to remain compliant.